Some commercial recyclers in Cape Breton complain that people are improperly disposing of used syringes, commonly called sharps or, simply, needles.

The recyclers say they're finding needles tossed in with glass and plastic bottles or thrown into regular household blue bags.

Triple B Recycling in Sydney, N.S., receives a lot of bottles returned for the deposit.

Manager Katherine Timmons says her concern is that a staff member is going to be punctured before spotting a needle.

"They're coming in black garbage bags. We don't know they're in there," she said. "We open up the bag and halfways through our counting, we notice needles mixed in with the product.

Katherine Timmons

Katherine Timmons, manager at Triple B Recycling, is warning her employees to be careful. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

"You don't know what's on those needles, what they can contain."

Timmons says for reasons she doesn't understand, the number of needles coming into the depot really jumped in the summer, a trend she calls "very troubling."

Loose sharps

"Now we're very cautious," she said. "I tell my employees, 'If you see a needle, stop.' Let everybody know that there's a needle in the bag, double glove and be very careful in what they're doing."

Timmons says there's no way to know what the needles were used for. Perhaps there was insulin in the syringe, but it could also be carrying hepatitis, HIV or other communicable diseases.

Jeff Stone

Jeff Stone, with Camdon Recycling in Sydport, says his staff come across needles a few times a month. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Camdon Recycling in Sydport, near Sydney, sorts all the materials from curbside blue bag collection in Cape Breton.

Operations supervisor Jeff Stone says his staff come across needles a few times a month.

"We have to separate all the material that's in the blue bags," he said, "and when we find sharps in the blue bags, we have to stop production and we got to take off each of the sharps individually."

Tracking the source

Stone says his workers try to match names or addresses in the recycling to the bags containing the needles. If they can, the information is passed on to the recycling educator with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, who contacts the person who disposed of the sharps.

Katherine Timmons says most people can't claim ignorance of the proper disposal method.

recycling

Needles are found tossed in with glass and plastic bottles or thrown into regular household blue bags. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

"Recycling has been around for years," she said. "People know now what is acceptable and what's not acceptable.

"I enjoy waiting on customers. We try to give the customer a very pleasant, clean experience here and I just wish that some of them would return the favour."

With files from Gary Mansfield